Chekhov in Moscow at the Space
Premiering at The Space, Chekhov In Moscow – produced by Oddservants theatre company – is an hourlong comedic love letter to the late great playwright Anton Chekov. The show, which weaves the literary icon’s past plays, monologues and published letters into an original narrative, gives a sense of insight into the ups and downs of being a writer.
The piece is set in the year 1897, when Chekov is scheduled to finish a new play within four days for his friend, the famous Stanislavski. However, after receiving negative reviews for his last production, the titular protagonist falls into a state of depression and fails to write anything new, resulting in an incomplete script. The show follows Chekov and a group of actors – Stanislavski, Olga Knipper and Alexander Artyom – as they try and come up with alternative productions to stage.
Chekhov In Moscow treats the audience to three of the subject’s short plays, The Bear, The Tragedian and Swansong. Paired with these treasures are intervals of original and funny interludes crafted by the show’s writer and adapter Mike Carter. With great dialogue and engaging acting all around, this is a production that’s easy to enjoy, but which perhaps relies too much on the famous playwright’s work rather than developing its own story and message.
Chekhov’s writing isn’t an easy act to follow or cut down. The production is dominated by the late playwright’s short plays as opposed to Mike Carter’s own writing, often overshadowing the work’s main themes and storyline. However, Elizabeth Quinn’s direction creates an enthralling performance that takes us back in time to the early days of naturalism. Reliving and seeing the past through classics is a longstanding tradition of theatre and this show guides the audience through the experience with adequate wit and comedy despite its lack of original content.
Chekhov in Moscow is a slideshow of nostalgia for theatre’s past. Although quite old-fashioned at times, it pays homage to writers and the pressure of being an artist through the lens of one of the greats. With strong writing, acting and direction, it’s a staging that does Chekhov justice, but nonetheless leaves us wanting more, lacking a clear message to connect with.
Photo: Greg Baldock
Chekhov in Moscow is at the Space from 27th August until 1st September 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.